(June 12, 2022) A visit to Louvre – the world famous museum in Central Paris – is sure to leave any visitor spellbound. Purva Damani was no exception. As a 10-year-old accompanied by her elder sister Puja Shah into the sprawling museum, home to some of the best known works of art, the art lover couldn’t take her eyes off the masterpieces on display. Keenly observing the exhausting display of artworks, it set her thinking passionately about arts and sculptures. Louvre had left a lasting impression on her mind.
She followed it up with visits to the Brooklyn Museum of Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Kanoria Centre of Arts in her home town of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. This gave her the chance to dig deeper into the world of art, which eventually became a lifelong passion for Purva Damani. It gave birth to an idea called 079 | Stories – a pulsating art gallery in Ahmedabad, where art and culture is celebrated every day.
“My gallery is a platform that brings art and culture together and makes it accessible for people. From young contemporary artists to modern masters of national and international fame and reputation, we have hosted multiple art shows. It is a space that caters to art, design and creativity,” smiles Purva Damani, the founder and director of 079 | Stories, in a chat with Global Indian.
Gone are those days when only few people were art collectors. “With an increasing awareness about art among the younger generation, we see many young art enthusiasts investing in art, thus leading to a growing number of new art collectors,” informs Purva.
A love affair with art galleries
Born to a jewellery designer mother and a businessman father in Ahmedabad in 1980, Purva completed her schooling from Mt Carmel Convent High School and graduated from the HL College of Commerce, Ahmedabad. But it was her annual visits to the US (being a green card holder) that introduced her to art at a very young age.
“Of course, the Louvre had left an imprint on my mind. However, my mother Ila Vasa and sister Puja, an avid art lover, played a pivotal role in igniting my passion for arts. I used to tag along with them to various museums and art galleries in the US,” informs the trained Kathak dancer, who also did her diploma in marketing from the Ahmedabad Management Association.
After her post-graduation in 2003, Purva enrolled for a year in advertising and communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York. “During that time, I worked in libraries and fashion stores and explored a lot about art,” informs the 42-year-old, who never felt like settling in the US. “After travelling the world, I realised India is my true home with its rich culture, heritage and strong social bonds. I took the best out of the US and decided to settle here,” the art lover adds.
Armed with interpersonal skills coupled with a diploma in Human Resources and Marketing, she joined as a HR consultant in Mumbai before returning to Ahmedabad. Later, she married former national cricketer Kirat Damani, who is now the managing partner with AC Damani and advocates, a prominent law firm in Ahmedabad. However, art was something that was strongly etched in her mind.
Passion turned into profession
Personal tragedy had pushed Purva at her lowest in 2013 after multiple miscarriages. But that’s when she decided to bounce back and conceptualised 079 | Stories. “My idea to follow my passion gave me a new zeal to kick start working towards my goal. The thought of following my passion for art and getting into the art scene struck me while I was dealing with my postpartum depression,” informs the art enthusiast.
While she did a thorough research, met different artists, understood their art and mediums and visited art galleries and museums, it was her family’s support that propelled her into launching her own art space.
But setting up her art gallery had its own share of challenges – from finalising the design for the kind of art organisation she wanted to represent to setting up the module to the services offered. But after years of hardwork and conceptualisation, the art gallery was launched in 2018. For Ahmedabad, it was a whole new experience as the art aficionados were introduced to an art gallery, workshop space and an amphitheater, all under one roof.
Hosting multiple art shows, plays, musical events including jazz festivals and Sufi music, book reading sessions, pottery festivals and workshops aimed at reviving the dying art of mata ni pachedi – it soon became the most talked-about art galleries in Ahmedabad. In the following years, it hosted the works of artists including Paresh Maity, Jayashri Burman, Mizaffar Ali, Brinda Miller, Seema Kohli and the likes. From modern contemporary to multi-media to sculptures, the gallery has displayed a range of artworks, making a hit among the art aficionados. But why 079 | Stories? “Well, it is the STD code of Ahmedabad!” the art lover smiles.
Making art available to youngsters
Purva is on a mission to make art available to youngsters. “Respect for arts needs to be infused early and its relevance in our life needs to be highlighted,” says Purva who believes India has always been a centre of art and culture and is part of everyday life. “All of us need to come together to support young upcoming artists. The awareness among the younger generation is paving the way for more refined art,” says the mother of two who has plans to host more exhibitions.
“I want to provide a stable platform for mid-level, young and emerging artists. Promoting affordable art through exhibitions is what I intend to do,” says Purva, a certified healer who practices healing regularly.
Art has often been associated with the rich, and that the notion Purva wants to break. “That is precisely the reason why I am promoting more and more budding artists,” points out Purva, who is on the advisory boards for various institutes and NGOs and is regularly invited for panel discussions on art. Purva feels the art scene has evolved for the better over the years. “Earlier, very few people were art collectors, but that scenario has changed. Now we see more youngsters who are art enthusiasts, and the number is growing,” the art lover says.